YVSC seeks volunteers to help restore wetlands, wildlife habitat in Yampa Valley
Crew has series of projects lined up for summer
The Yampa Valley Sustainability Council is looking for volunteers to roll up their sleeves and help with a couple of projects this summer supporting river health and land stewardship in Moffat County.
The purpose of this program, the Yampa Valley Climate Crew, is to connect community members with stewardship and conservation efforts in the area.
Ryan Messinger, the crew’s coordinator, said that last year YVSC worked on land restoration projects in Moffat County, and many volunteers came over from Routt County to help out. Messinger wants people in Craig to know these projects are happening so they can get involved.
Over the past few years, YVSC has been working toward expanding more services and outreach to Moffat County. Having more volunteers from Moffat County will increase YVSC’s capacity to support more projects across the Yampa Valley.
“I know there’s a lot of people in Craig who are really passionate about keeping the land pristine, and there are a lot of landowners who have seen their lands degrading over the years,” Messinger said.
There will be three key projects coming up this summer that Moffat County residents may be interested in.
From July 16-19, YVSC will be working on a wetland meadows restoration project on the Visintainer Ranch outside Craig near the Wyman Museum.
The project will address wetland and riparian areas that have been compromised by erosion and low water tables, which are likely to be further damaged by drought and high intensity rain storms associated with a changing climate.
Addressing these challenges will use simple restoration methods called “one-rock dams” to raise the water table and restore sagebrush habitat in wetland and riparian areas. The project will restore the vital ecosystem for carbon storage and important wildlife habitat, including the greater sage-grouse, migratory birds, elk and mule deer.
The Visintainer property is private property but is often utilized for hunting and camping with permission from the owners. Volunteers working with YVSC are invited to camp during the project on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and the nights before and after the project on Wednesday and Sunday evenings.
Later in the summer, YVSC will be working on a re-treeing project on Lower Elkhead Creek, a nine mile stretch of creek below Elkhead Reservoir where YVSC will be planting cottonwoods, alders, willows and chokecherries. This will be another opportunity for volunteers to come out and pitch in. Last year YVSC had 40 volunteers who helped plant over 1,000 trees as a part of this project.
Over the years, landowners have noticed bank erosion and habitat degradation along this stretch of the creek. Landowners are partnering with YVSC and Natural Resources Conservation Service to plant trees to help stabilize the bank and restore the riparian habitats.
The re-treeing along Elkhead Creek will help prevent erosion and protect native fish populations. The shade provided by the trees also will help cool down the river, which has had problems with high temperatures the past several years.
Organizers say that any work done to this section of the stream will benefit the whole river system.
“What happens upstream affects what happens downstream,” Messinger said. “And what happens on the tributaries of the river affects the river downstream as well.”
Projects on private land also affect the rivers and streams in other areas accessed by the public, Messinger explained.
There will also be a wetland meadows restoration project in California Park north of Hayden in August. California Park is public forest land that is commonly used for camping. This project will be similar to the wetland restoration on the Visintainer ranch and have similar benefits.
“If you live next to the river or use it for recreational purposes, you may have seen the degradation of the river and land and you may not feel like you have any power to do anything about it,” said Messinger. “This gives people a chance to do something about it.”
Volunteers can learn more about Yampa Valley Climate Crew and sign up for projects at YVSC.org under “Get Involved.” Sign ups are currently open for the June project at the Visintainer ranch, the other projects will be posted as the dates and details are solidified.
“What comes with volunteering for these projects is the sense of satisfaction for the work you’ve done,” Messinger said, “especially for the tree planting on Elk Head creek, you’ll get to go back and see what you’ve done.”
There is also a strong community aspect to volunteering for YVSC projects, because it gathers together people in the community who care about the environment and want to get out and help.
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Steamboat Springs-based nonprofit Yampa Valley Sustainability Council will kick off the summer with an environmentally friendly commuter contest called CARbon-Free Challenge on Wednesday, June 1, that will continue through June 30.